At the end of your marriage, one of the last things you likely want to think about is the potential for your death. However, it is extremely important to review your estate plan during any major life change. If you don’t, you could end up leaving people on your will as beneficiaries when you no longer welcome them in your life.
You may also have appointed guardians or a health care proxy. If that was your ex-spouse, for example, you may want to change the guardian or proxy to a sibling, parent or child.
How soon after a divorce should you change your will?
You should talk to your attorney about changing your will as soon as you know that a divorce will occur. You can begin making changes right away, so that you’re protected in case anything happens throughout the course of the divorce.
There are certain parts of your estate plan that may not be able to be changed until after your divorce. For example, your retirement accounts, 401k, life insurance designation or other beneficiary designations may have to stay in place until the divorce is finalized, since these may be considered to be marital assets.
When you file for a divorce, the above assets, along with others, have a temporary, but automatic, restraining order applied to them. This means you won’t be able to access or alter them.
When you do finalize your divorce, the next step is to revisit your will and estate plan. At that point, you can review what you did or did not want to change about your will, health care proxy, power of attorney and other important parts of your estate plan. If you could not change certain things before, like your beneficiary designations, now is the time to do so.
How long does it take for changes to your will or estate plan to be legal?
When you make changes to your will and sign them in front of your attorney with a witness present, this automatically updates the will. Your attorney will file the updated will at their office. Additionally, wills are not sent to court until after your death. For this reason, any changes you make will be official the moment your signature is on the document. Keep this in mind, since you want to be sure of the changes you’re making. There is no waiting period for the will to kick in.